Friday, January 29

Beam me up, Scotty

"West Ham United have today announced the resignation of chief executive Scott Duxbury.
Duxbury said: 'I am proud of my work at West Ham United but feel the time is right for me to pursue other opportunities.'"

So Scott Duxbury has fallen on his sword. Don't know too much about the guy. His interviews about the West Ham "project" always sounded impressive, but then again he was the man in Tevezgate who was said to have given "oral cuddles" to Tevez's management.

Not a surprise, really, as Karren Brady was always going to want sole control of finance.

Eidur no

Typical Redknapp, buying anyone he can just because they're available. We almost had Eidur Gudjonsson on loan but Harry muscled in after he'd had a medical with us.

In Harry's autobiography he describes how he pulled a similar fast one in the transfer market over Barry Fry, who then threatened to send round "a couple of geezers to blow your kneecaps off". Think we'll settle for a beating around the head with an Ann Summers marital aid. And Spurs going bankrupt like Portsmouth.

And where is Benni McCarthy? We have agreed a fee and personal terms according to the media, but still no announcement on the club web site. Apparently there is a work permit problem

Meanwhile we're now linked with Scott McDonald, Celtic's Australian striker. Might Victor Moss of Crystal Palace be a good bet? He looks good and they are in administration and have to sell on the cheap...

And what about the promised right-back? Just as vital as a striker.

Wednesday, January 27

Pompey crimes

Portsmouth 1 West Ham 1

Just as we're discussing the good fortune of the Olympic Stadium being on the Silverlink, DC's hurling a barrage of expletives at his laptop.

We're having dinner with DC and Mrs DC, and his laptop's subtly placed on a kitchen unit. DC is simply watching the scores change on the home page rather than be tortured by updates from Caroline Cheese. It quite ruins our courgette and pesto bake with New Zealand Marlborough wine.

"It's a terrible disaster... We need a coordinated rescue plan," says Mrs DC, only it seems she's talking about Haiti to Her Indoors and not the Irons.

It's a point at least. I feared worse against a team with n money and several players in Africa. Just the sort of game we'd lose.

The Sky Sports News highlights show Nouble had an influential game early on, forcing a good save from Begovic, who then saves Diamanti's follow-up. Frank then plays a one-two with Collison who brings an even better save from the Pompey keeper.

We go ahead when Diamanti's cross pings off a Pompey' defender's head on to Upson's chest and into the net.

Carlton Cole comes on with 15 minutes left which is great news for the rst of the season. But then we concede the equaliser. Tomkins is fouled in the build-up, as Webber sneaks round the back of Upson to slide the ball home.

To take the positives we've got away points in two successive away fixtures and Franco says "we played a good game" as he always does. Although surely we should have won on chances. Sullivan, in the crowd wearing a coat that's a bizarre mix of Sgt Pepper and Politburo, now knows the scale of the task ahead.

Sunday, January 24

West Ham Olympic my a@@e!

The PR from the new owners has been generally impressive so far. Sullivan and Gold have told the fans clearly the dire financial situation at the club and set out their goals in honest language.

Karren Brady wrote a decent article for the Sun on Saturday but got a little over-excited about how good it would be to re-name us as West Ham Olympic. We are West Ham United and if anyone tried to change that you could see a similar revolt to one at Newcastle when they wanted to turn their stadium into an email address. Don't go there Karren…

Striker light

Today's papers seem to have us signing either Benny McCarthy (Sunday Times) or Eidur Gudjohnsson on loan (NOTW).

One name to consider is maybe Dave Kitson of Stoke. He might have struggled at the Britannia but always scored against us with Reading and was being talked of as an England striker a couple of years ago. Think he might have been out on loan this season though, which would mean we had to get round the not having three clubs in a season rule.

Friday, January 22

Ruud boys?

Transfer targets mentioned in the press include Luke Young, whom is a proven right-back, very solid at Charlton and Boro, and would be good if we could get him. Presumably he'd cost £6 million or so though. Benni McCarthy is 32 but does score goals on a regular basis (think he hit 13 for Blackburn last season) and would have the World Cup in South Africa to motivate him.

As for today's story about 33-year-old Ruud Van Nistelrooy (better than Salford Van Hire) coming, it seems a little bizarre to be offering him 100k a week having slagged of Ljungberg's 80k a week deal from the Eggman so strongly.

But it might work if we could get him on a short-term deal and he saves us from losing £40 million through relegation. Can't see him swapping Real Madrid for dinner at Theydon Bois though…

Wednesday, January 20

The Club Landlord

First Egghead and now the Pub Landlord. A very funny comparison of David Sullivan in his claret jacket and blue tie and Al Murray's Pub Landlord in today's Daily Mirror.

Maybe he'll get a job in the White Horse Bar serving West Ham Chardonnay for the ladies?

Other claims in the Guardian are that it would cost £2 million to get rid of Duxbury, so his job is safe. While the Telegraph claims that the deal only cost Sullivan £20 million.

Debt in the afternoon

Frightening financial facts to emerge from the Sullivan/Gold press conference are that we have already taken 70 per cent of next season's season ticket money and 60 per cent of the season after.

And also that we are not owed any money by other clubs as the money from selling players has gone straight to the banks.
Sullivan says we owe £50 million to the banks and £40 million to other clubs, plus the Curbishley settlement (around £2 million?).
That adds up to about £92 million, although Sullivan quoted a total debt of £110 million.

They say they've paid off a little of the debt in the new deal (around £22 million according to the Guardian) so it should be less than that now, but it's still huge.
Hopefully Sullivan is talking up the debt so that if it's then reduced he gets more credit.

The big hope has to be that the other 50 per cent of the club is bought by wealthy fans and he's asked for them to join them in a "government of national unity" (or would it be more like Dad's Army?). Sounds like a mission for Barack, Russell and Katy.

Tuesday, January 19

We're not Brassic anymore?

Finally we have a new owner. The Sullivan/Gold deal of buying 50 per cent of the club was probably the best offer on the table.

They were the only bidders with any experience of running a Premier League club and they did a decent job at Birmingham. The City fans might have complained, but when they arrived Birmingham was a poor Championship club with a rubbish ground. They now have a new stadium and for most of Sullivan’s time they’ve been in the Premiership.

They’ve also shown loyalty to their four managers, Barry Fry, Trevor Francis, Steve Bruce and Alex McCleish. This makes sense from a business and ethical perspective. And it appears they want to keep Zola and Clarke, which is good news, although Franco has yet to be tested in the transfer market.

Sullivan and Gold have twice owned shares in West Ham so it seems that as East Enders they do have an attachment to the club. Perhaps Sullivan’s indulging in a bit of clever PR talking up the debt to £110 million and saying he’d have been mad to take on the Irons from a business perspective, but as Londoners and apparent fans — and Gold is a former West Ham youth player — they are surely unlikely to asset strip us or inflict Glazer-style debt on us.

Even if he did make his money in razzle mags, Sullivan is a shrewd businessman. He’s already mentioned the idiocy of taking Ljungberg on 30k a week at Arsenal and then paying him 80k a week, which is the sort of straight talking we need. Presumably he will also get rid of Nani — a good thing based on the evidence of Savio — and ask Zola to select his own players.

The idea of moving to the Olympic stadium and competing with Arsenal has to make economic sense (and for the benefit of DC and the north London Irons it’s on the Silverlink). It would be painful to leave Upton Park, but can we ignore such a prime venue? We would have to relocate Ken’s CafĂ© though, and that is not negotiable.

Karren Brady will be vice-chairman and you would expect her to sort out the financial mess. She was certainly ahead of her time at Birmingham, introducing kids for a quid and some sound marketing ideas before they were fashionable. And we might get on The Apprentice.

The plan to invite investment in the other 50 per cent of WHU from the like of Tony Fernandes and other rich fans is, on the face of it, a progressive idea.

The downside of Sullivan and Gold is that it’s not exactly going to enhance our feminist credibility being run by the one-time publisher of the Sunday Sport and Asian Babes, but in this era we’re unlikely to get an owner without baggage. Man City had a geezer on human rights charges and businessmen running airlines and oil companies are doing more harm to the environment than Sullivan and Gold (who have after all encouraged men to, erm, make their own entertainment at home). And traditionally the East End has always housed the dirtier industries of the capital.

It’s also a problem that Sullivan might have loads of dosh but why does he wear that Russian-style overcoat with the dodgy red trimmings?

It might go horribly wrong of course. But surely nothing can be worse than the meltdown of the Gudmundsson era. We can now keep our players, buy a couple more, and look forward to Sullivan’s seven-year plan of Champions League football. Mind you, Gudmundsson promised that too…

Monday, January 18

Green day

Aston Villa 0 West Ham 0

Times are desperate so we’re watching the game live on Sky in the Lucky Pub. None of us can tell you where it is or we have to kill you — but various members of our crew have seen West Ham win 3-2 at Highbury, beat Ipswich 2-0 away in the play-offs, win at Sunderland and draw at Anfield in this venue.

Nigel and CQ arrive late, laden down with grooming products and Body Shop-style pampering equipment because it was going cheap in the West End. Nigel declares that if we beat Villa it's our first double of the season. Matt and Lisa complete the Sunday luncheon club as we try to get the landlord to switch over from the cricket.

We’re playing a five-man midfield with just Nouble up front. Early on the young striker runs from the half way line and with the confidence of youth murders Dunne and Collins for pace as he races through for a one-on-one with the keeper, only to blast over as Cuellar lunges in.

Then it reverts to form. We work hard but can’t hold on to the ball and Villa make several chances and win numerous corners. Green brilliantly tips away a lifted cross come shot from Ashley Young. Then Agbonlahor swivels in the box and Green makes a fantastic one-handed stop. He shows the other side of his game by dropping a cross. But it’s 0-0 at the break and another pint of Master Brew please.

In the second half Milner hits the outside of the post after a great move and Ginger Collins volleys just wide. Green is caught out trying to dribble the ball but survives. Parker goes off with a thigh injury and is replaced by the snood-wearing Diamanti. (Possibly the worst accessory ever worn by a West ham player — what would Dicksy say? Will he play with a man bag next?)

Carew has the ball in the net after Green spills Downing’s shot, but he’s correctly ruled offside. The booked Kovac nearly goes off, but luckily his foul on Petrov goes unpunished, and Franco sensibly subs him for Stanislas. Tomkins and Upson are playing well at the back and even Faubert isn’t bad.

The tension is too much for Matt: “Nouble keeps falling over! Why can’t Behrami pass straight? Where is Collision? We’re not playing well at all!”

“You wouldn’t think we’re 20 minutes away from a point at a top six team would you?” intones Nigel, sagely prodding his overcooked roast beef.

"Do we go out of the bottom three if we get a point?" I wonder.

"Don't say that! It's a competition between you and Nigel to see who can say the stupidist things!" exclaims Matt, fearing I've jinxed the Irons.

Nouble is doing a good job keeping the Villa defence occupied and slowly we come into the game. Stanislas blasts in a low cross from the right and Collins deflects the ball past his own post. Dimanti has a scuffed shot and Friedel punches Behrami and the ball in the melee.

We make it to 90 minutes. Only then Agbonlahor is through one on one with Green and this is surely another injury time defeat, but no his control is poor and Green pulls off another fantastic stop.

Added time goes on forever, Da Costa replaces Nouble after 94 minutes, but finally it’s over. A point!

We rode our luck but three fantastic saves from Robert Green (30 this weekend) and some great blocks from Tomkins and Upson have kept us in it.

Nigel and CQ leave to sample some grapefruit body scrub and strawberry body polish and Matt and Lisa head off to the Courtauld to see Frank Auerbach, whoever he plays for. The Lucky Pub has worked its magic again. Best not go there again until the survival decider.

Saturday, January 16

Another fine mess

Well, the £115,000 fine for the Millwall aggro seems ok to me. It could have been a lot worse and is small change compared to what we owe Sheffield United.

Lucky they didn't take into consideration several aggravating beer-guts and some dodgy trainers and that bird with the handbag…

Friday, January 15

Fit and proper person?

Today's Sun states that Italian cereal baron Massimo Cellino has twice had suspended jail sentences for deception.

"In 2000 he was given a 14-month suspended sentence for deceiving the EU and the Italian Ministry for Agriculture out of £7.5m.

And, in 2001, Cellino got a 15-month suspended sentence for false accounting at Cagliari."

What a surprise, someone trying to buy a Premiership club proving to be a bit iffy…

Wednesday, January 13

Death of Jim Bowe

Looks like the Intermarket bid may now hit the buffers. Tragically Intermarket's proposed takeover of West Ham has been hit by the death of their chief executive officer Jim Bowe, aged 59, at the weekend.

Better news for the Irons (and ok, it's not as important as life and death) is that a fourth possible bidder has emerged, Massimo Cellino, president of Serie A's Cagliari, the club where Zola ended his playing days.

Monday, January 11

Winter wonderland

The police said they couldn't guarantee the safety of the thousands of fans trying to get a cup of tea in Ken's Cafe as young Billy hadn't gritted the pavement outside.

On the face of it a postponed match against Wolves is not a bad result for us, considering Cole, Parker, Noble, Ilunga and co should be fit (if not sold) for the rearranged game. And we might even have Luis Boa Morte back and, if it's not played until May, Keiron Dyer might make it to the bench for a five-minute cameo.

Mind you, it does leave us with three away games in a row, the first of which we've already lost at Spurs…

Thursday, January 7

Fortune's not always hiding?

Perhaps events at Bolton, Burnley and Portsmouth will work in our favour. You don't like to see other clubs suffering financial meltdown, but Portsmouth will surely soon have to flog all their stars and go into administration, consigning them to the drop.
While Burnley must be likely candidates for relegation without Owen Coyle. (And maybe it's a good time to bid for Chris Eagles who looks a good player on his form against us?).

Meanwhile Bolton may suffer from the upheaval of Coyle wanting to bring his own players in - Redknapp at Pompey apart, most clubs who change managers mid-season don't beat the drop. They might just make it though, which leaves us fighting it out with Hull, Wolves Wigan and Blackburn for the third relegation spot. And if we get just a new owner (seems we have four bidders) you'd have to be optimistic of finishing above one of them.

Wednesday, January 6

Feed the Hare and he will score?

Plenty in the papers today including WHU being linked with Marlon Harewood. Having failed at Villa he should be hungry and at £250k might be a good squad player for us if he can reproduce anything like the form of 2005-06. He also bagged a few on loan at Newcastle. On the other hand he's 30 and might be only destined to become a kitchen fitter.

Diamanti has played down links to AC Milan, Arsenal may go for Carlton and the Guardian claims a mystery north American investor (Tiger Woods? Gordon Gekko? North Yank Norman?)has entered the Hammers bidding, although elsewhere Karren Brady is said to be checking our books.

Oh and Radoslav Kovac is retiring from international football with the Czech Republic to concentrate on relegation, sorry, that should read club football.

Tuesday, January 5

Kick up the Arsenal

West Ham 1 Arsenal 2 (FA Cup)

On the District line a Christian woman is handing out leaflets and shouting, “Jesus saves!” Only we have no forwards left to score the rebound.

Her leaflet reads: "On the spiritual field Jesus is the referee, the world is the pitch and the first Yellow card is a WARNING for you to prepare to meet God. The second yellow card is your final warning; a red card and you are SENT OFF forever to that place the Bible calls HELL." So it's not looking good for Tomas Repka, then?

We’re not far off Hell, being without Parker, Cole, Noble, Ilunga, Franco, Collison (whom Fraser fears has been sold if Matt’s conspiracy theory still holds), Hines, and of course Boa Morte and Dyer.

Nouble is starting up front for the suspended Franco and Daprela is in for his debut at left-back. Arsenal have most of there first choice defence plus youngsters like Wilshire and Ramsey

Yet it begins as a surprisingly even game. Tomkins makes a poor clearance and Green saves well from Eduardo. But Diamanti goes close too as Fabianski tips away a vicious curler.

The sad Gooner fans sing “You’ve only got one song!” and taunt us for being allegedly quieter than The Library. We’re competing well through the blonde midfield fulcrum of Behrami and Kovac. There's a little internal dissent when Fraser points out that Matt's praising Behrami having claimed against Chelsea that Valon would never play for us again.

Daprela gets booked and is exposed a few times but makes a couple of surging runs forward only to catche the West Ham disease of not shooting. Frank Nouble hesitates when clear twice but puts himself about well and is more nuisance value than a hobbling Franco.

On half-tine Behrami wins a loose ball and plays in Diamanti who has sprung the Gooners offside trap. The Italian fires in off the post and runs to the comer in celebration. Blimey.

At half-time we discuss where we’re going to have the Cup Final breakfast in May before taking the train to Wembley. Part-time Nigel texts “We’ll still f**k it up”. Oh ye of (justifiably) little faith.

Nouble fires just wide after an incisive passing move just after the interval. Stanislas has a shot brilliantly tipped away for a corner by Fabianski. Then we have 15 minutes of the ball always seems to fall to Jimenez whop is in the right position but always dawdles on the edge of the box. “What is it with bloody Jiminez? How can he get every decision so king wrong” complains the vicar’s son.

In the final third of the game Nouble goes down with cramp and our young side is visibly tiring. Wenger gets worried and brings on Diaby and Nasri.

Green makes a great double save from Diaby and Song. Zola starts to warm up young Freddie Sears, fresh from his Christmas tree and chocolate money, but then dithers. Too late, on 78 minutes Song combines with Vela and Vela’s swift pass finds Ramsey who fools Tomkins by turning and shooting in one movement, and it’s 1-1.

“Why did he wait to take off Nouble? Zola’s the Gordon Brown of management, he can’t make a decision!” moans the vicar’s son.

Five minutes later Vela crosses from the left and the tiny Eduardo outjumps Matthew Upson to power in a Nat Lofthouse-style header that Green can only palm into the net. Why did he learn to do that against us?

The winner takes it all, the loser feeling small, as Abba once sang. Arsenal’s win never looks in doubt, although we’ve done well to compete with such a threadbare side. We even get to see young Edgar come on.

“Oh well, at least we can concentrate on getting into the bottom three,” I mumble. “Guess we’ll just have to have a 2012 Olympics breakfast round at Fraser’s instead of the Cup Final.”

We retreat to the Central which is marginally warmer than the icy East Stand, reflecting that it will now be 30 years before we can win a trophy.

“That’s only if you discount the Inter-Toto Cup!” says Fraser. “

"And the Play-off Final!” adds Matt.

Fraser then asks us to name the line-up of the Inter-Toto Cup winning side against Metz, which proves surprisingly difficult, as we stumble on Foe, but get Marc Keller and Steve Potts.

Oh well, another pint, please. Perhaps we can still make the Europa League with a late surge…